This paper investigates the performance of a solar-assisted adsorption (AD) cycle which produces two useful effects, namely cooling and desalination, with only a low-temperature heat input such as thermal energy from solar collectors. Heat sources varying from 65 to 80°C can be obtained from 215-m2 flat plate-type solar collectors to regenerate the proposed silica gel-water-based AD cycle. In this paper, both mathematical modelling and experimental results from the AD cycle operation are discussed, in terms of two key parameters, namely specific daily water production (SDWP) and specific cooling capacity (SCC). The experimental results show that the AD cycle is capable of producing chilled water at 7 to 10°C with varying SCC range of 25-35 Rton/tonne of silica gel. Simultaneously, the AD cycle produces a SDWP of 3-5 m3 per tonne of silica gel per day, rendering it as a dual-effect machine that has an overall conversion or performance ratio of 0.8-1.1. © The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.